Read Mark 12:1-12
As Jesus begins to tell the story of a vineyard, you need to remember how familiar his audience would have been with the stories of the prophets. So as Jesus starts to talk about a vineyard, an ancient song from the Prophet Isaiah would have sprung to mind (Isaiah 5:1-7). But Jesus’ story takes a different twist to that of Isaiah’s. Jesus uses the same description to describe the vineyard’s construction (he planted a vineyard, dug a pit and built a watchtower), but then the story changes. In Jesus’ tale, the vineyard owner leaves the country and leaves the vineyard in the care of tenants.
But the tenants are unfaithful; they fail to pay to the owner of the vineyard what is rightfully his. In fact when a servant of the owners comes to collect the rent – the tenants beat him up and send him away empty handed. Now this is about the time I think I would be ready to go in and knock some skulls together. Who do the tenants think they are? But instead the owner is patient and sends another servant to collect what is rightfully his, but again the tenants beat up the servant and send him away empty handed.
A third time the owner sends a servant to collect his share of the vineyards profits, and this time the tenants kill the servant. I’m not sure what is going through the owner’s mind, surely the tenants have received enough warning. The law courts would be on the owner’s side, surely now is the time to send in wrath and destruction. But instead the owner sends in his beloved son. “Surely,” he muses, “they will respect my son.” You would think so, wouldn’t you? Even if they had disrespected the servants, they are not going to harm the owner’s son. But these tenants are either completely stupid or blinded by greed, and seeing the heir of the vineyard approach them they plot to kill him so that they may receive the inheritance of the son. How is that for messed up logic – if we kill the owner’s son, then he will give us the farm when he passes away – yeah right, NOT!
The tenants are delusional. Jesus asks his audience a question that he immediately answers for them – “What will the owner do?” “He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
The Pharisees may not have understood many of Jesus parables but they got this one. They worked out that he was talking about them… and their solution was to arrest him. However they were fearful of doing it in front of the big crowd, so instead they went away plotting out to kill him. The irony here is great – the Pharisees didn’t like the fact that Jesus was comparing them to a group of tenants who were going to be destroyed for killing the vineyard’s owner’s son, so…they plot to kill Jesus (if they really understood the parable they would have understood Jesus as the son). So they protested against the parable by fulfilling the parable – good work Pharisees!
You may be asking, apart from the fact that both stories were about vineyards, how is Jesus story related to Isaiah’s song of the vineyard? The meaning is the same – to the Israelite nation God gave much and had high expectations, but in the end his wrath would be poured out against sin, against his only Son. To those who accept Christ the sacrifice is paid, but those who reject will receive the full measure of God’s wrath.
- What stood out for you in today’s story? Do you have any questions?
- Jesus’ story tells us that, to those people that know Jesus, Jesus expects us to respond in love and worship. What are some acts of love and everyday worship you already do?
- What do you think ‘fruit of love’ looks like? Are you seeing ‘fruit’ in your lives? (Whilst we may not always see the fruit of our love, it can be a good indicator that we are acting out of love to one another).
- Take time to listen for God’s promptings this week as you spend time in prayer, reading God’s word (the bible) and observing the world around you.